‘Till Death Do Us Part – In Loving Memory of Walt

It was the text I dreaded: “We are moving him to hospice today.”

In Loving Memory of Walter E. Marth - a #staymarried blog about a love that lasts a lifetimeOur dear friend Walt had been battling lung cancer for a long time. His health was compromised so that any infection that might ordinarily be handled with antibiotics, any blood clot that would otherwise be cleared with simple blood thinners, could be devastating. I knew he was in the hospital. We were praying and keeping in touch and hoping for the best. When I received his daughter’s text, we knew we needed to prepare to say goodbye. Continue reading “‘Till Death Do Us Part – In Loving Memory of Walt”

Our Candy Anniversary

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

Tony and I are celebrating six years of wedded bliss on June 8th. When I say “wedded bliss,” what I really mean is six years of learning about each other, having lots of fights, moving across the country and back again, changing jobs, and becoming parents. Traditionally, the sixth year is celebrated with candy to represent the sweetness in your relationship. This year, we’ll be eating our candy in El Paso, Texas while we spend time in the town where I grew up.

I am thrilled to be introducing our girls to my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Living so far away has prevented us from seeing them until now, and pictures of my kids really do not do their incredible personalities and joy-filled laughs justice. The last time I saw most of this side of my family was at our wedding in 2007. Having so many of my family members make the trip from Texas to Washington meant the world to me. I still tear up when I look at some of the pictures.

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

This time of year, I tend to reflect a lot on that day. I look at pictures. I pull out the little piece of paper that we wrote and recited our wedding vows from. I think about the weather that day- warm and just a little windy. I think about the music, the people who celebrated with us.

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

This year, I am thinking so much more about what we didn’t do for that special day. We didn’t serve alcohol. We didn’t have a catered meal. We didn’t rent tuxedos. We didn’t have a fun photo booth. We didn’t reserve a special vintage getaway car. We didn’t spend more than $300 total on both of our rings, combined. I am not thinking of these things in terms of regret. The truth is, we didn’t have the money for any of those things. We wanted to be married and if we’d waited until we could afford that kind of wedding, we may still not be married today. Or, if we’d decided it was ok for us to go into debt, I’m sure it would be a debt we might still be paying off. I guess I’m thinking so much about it because I’m not sure I would be able to make the same decisions today.

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

Maybe I was simply naive to the pressures a modern bride faces when I was engaged, but at the time I simply shrugged off all of the things I didn’t want to pay for. Fortunately, we were surrounded by family and community that graciously gifted to us many of the things we were even willing to pay for (invitations, a wedding venue, a small cake, flowers). I remember watching friends come early with platters of bite sized desserts and beautiful trays of fruit that they had prepared with their own hands to serve at our wedding. It was tough to hold back tears at their generosity. Six years later, I hope these friends haven’t any regrets about the investments they made in us that day.

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

In addition to the traditional wedding vows, we wrote our own that we read to one another.  As I run my fingers over the ink on the page of our vows, which Tony keeps in the pocket of the one and only suit jacket he owns, I thought I would share them with you.

Our Vows

Tony’s Vows to Me…

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

Michelle Elaine McKenzie, I thank God for you. I am thankful that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sin and rose from the dead so that I might have an abundantly blessed life. I am amazed by God’s goodness. I am humbled by His generosity as I look at you, a woman strong in faith, generous in heart, and beautiful to admire. Your passion for life, your love and compassion for others, and your tenderness has taken a hold of me. My heart was created to protect you, to love you.

I promise to put your interests before my own, to be your ever present strength, and not to withhold any good thing from you.

This day I give you my heart, trusting in God’s good plan for our life together.

My Vows To Tony…

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

Tony Owen Peterson, I thank God for you. I am thankful that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sin and rose from the dead so that I might have an abundantly blessed life. I am amazed by God’s goodness. I am humbled by his generosity as I look at you, a gift of a man better than I even knew to hope for. Your heart to worship God, your humility to obey Him, and your strength to lead me in His purposes has taken a hold of me. My heart was created to crave you, to love you.

I promise to put your interests before my own, to be your ever present helper, and not to withhold any good thing from you.

This day I give you my heart, trusting in God’s good plan for our life together.

We didn’t know it then, but this piece of paper, these photos, these memories… these things represent the beginning of our journey to fulfill our own vows and now to offer ourselves to others like you who are committed to #staymarried. Indeed, this anniversary will be sweet!

Our Candy Anniversary - a #staymarried blog

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read 25 Things To Do Before The Wedding. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

In Sickness and In Health

In Sickness and In Health - a #staymarried blog about the importance of sacrifice in marriageMy little family, like many of yours, was hit hard in the winter months with one kind of virus or another. We missed out on a lot. It wasn’t fun. For the most part, I stayed relatively symptom-free while I watched my girls and my husband suffer. Believe me, I would not rather have been sick, but there is a part of me that wishes I could be babied and cradled instead of being the one who was constantly loading the washing machine and cleaning up who-knows-what off the floor. I know I am not cut out to be a nurse. Caring for sick people is exhausting!

The last round of the flu was pretty sad. The worst of it hit Tony and the girls on Easter Sunday. There were no pretty dresses, no brunch, no candy or Easter Egg Hunts for our family. Instead there were revolving pitchers and buckets getting rinsed out, teaspoons full of Pedialyte and apple sauce, and Clean Towel Hunts. The toddler in me wanted to stomp my foot hard on the floor, cross my arms, and declare, “IT’S NOT FAIR!” I had plenty of time to think while I cradled my sweaty babies, and the words from our wedding vows called to me over and over again… “In sickness and in health.”

The movie, The Notebook, came out before I was married. I know there was a book before that, but let’s be honest, if it’s not non-fiction, I ain’t readin’ it. If you’re not familiar, it’s the story of true love and passion, the fairy-tale of a couple who is meant to be against the odds. It’s also a story about… SPOILER ALERT… a husband who cares for his elderly wife and loves her deeply even as her memory is taken from her by illness in her later years. It is beyond touching and romantic and if you are one of our male readers on the blog, I realize I may have already lost you.

Regardless, whenever I’d thought of the classic wedding vow, “In sickness and in health,” I guess I thought it would be this romantic, long standing faithfulness of never leaving someone when they come down with cancer or blindness or Alzheimer’s Disease. I pictured holding hands on the side of a hospital bed and reading to my dear husband as he moaned in and out of consciousness. I did not picture making sure our medicine cabinet was stocked with anti-diarrhea pills and catching vomit in my hands. Fortunately, in my case, the vomit was coming out of the mouth of our youngest. Tony experienced something much less fortunate when we were first married.

About three months after our wedding, I came down with one of the worst stomach viruses I’ve ever experienced. I can hardly remember a time when I felt more disgusting or helpless. As a new wife, I was also mortified for my husband to see me this way. Tony graciously ran me a bath, cleaned up after me (I’ll spare you the details), and kept any disgust he may have been feeling completely hidden from me. At that point, I knew the “honeymoon” was over and we were really married. He had seen me at my worst and still put my needs before his own.

Since then, we have traded turns care-taking a number of times. He’s been a witness to the birth of both of his daughters. If you think birth is a beautiful miracle, let me remind you that beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. We joke now that it’s actually a really disgusting miracle.

We joke because we have a lot to joke about. The illnesses and health setbacks we’ve experienced are quite minor to any we may face as we truly age. The reality is that as a person moves from the role of partner and spouse to the role of permanent caregiver, there can be an incredible amount of stress added to the relationship.

I think of my own father. I’ve shared before that I never really knew him. He suffered from strokes when he was just in his mid-fifties. While he made some attempts to stay active, his health slowly deteriorated over the following ten years. Though we were never close, I am saddened when I remember that, after two failed marriages, he passed away alone in his bed at home and was found by a hired caretaker. I don’t think that is what he’d imagined the end of his life to look like on either of his wedding days.

Any time we are dealt a card other than fantastic health, we are surely not the only ones who bear the burdens of our symptoms. Taking care of someone who is sick, whether it be a little cold or something more chronic, is a true test of selflessness and love. While it can be incredibly exhausting, the burden does not have to be carried by the married couple alone. In community, we share each other’s burdens to lighten the load. Did you know that those people who watched you get married were not simply there to be an audience to your grand show? The idea is that they stand by you and you by them. Those guests are your support system, believing so much in your union that they are willing to make sacrifices themselves to see it sustained. Tony and I have had a few opportunities to sit by our friends in a hospital bed and to deliver a meal here and there to care for our friends in practical ways. And, more times than we can count, we have received care from our community. I’ve not only had friends drop off meals when my kids were sick, but offer to care for my kids when I’ve been sick and even come into my house to fold my laundry and wash my dishes. This is the kind of community not necessarily found on Facebook, but rather, as you invest yourself in others and they in turn invest themselves in you.

Still, once my gracious friends leave, I am faced with my one and only in the moments I don’t feel so attractive or romantic. Dealing with the stress of illness can be a turning point in the life of a marriage. We all have the opportunity in that moment to either fend for ourselves, or to put someone else’s needs above our own. Psychologists have studied these defining moments and found that each person’s willingness to sacrifice is key:

Couples willing to make sacrifices within their relationships were more effective in solving their problems. “It’s a robust finding,” Thomas Bradbury, a psychology professor who co-directs the Relationship Institute, said. “[This] kind of commitment predicted lower divorce rates and slower rates of deterioration in the relationship.” Of the 172 married couples in the study, 78.5 percent were still married after 11 years, and 21.5 percent were divorced. The couples in which both people were willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the marriage were significantly more likely to have lasting and happy marriages.

Every morning for the past several weeks, I have watched as Tony has made just these types of sacrifices. You see, I am feeling sick in the healthiest way possible. We are expecting our third child! We’ve been through this twice before, but we’ve never had two toddlers to care for in the midst of it. Tony graciously takes care of their breakfast in the morning and Nora’s first diaper while I get through the worst of my morning sickness. He also comes home in the evening and helps with dinner because, as nauseous as I’ve been, the thought of touching food sends me straight to the bathroom. So, while I am technically very healthy, my symptoms would indicate otherwise. This is just the give and take, the willingness to sacrifice, that will hopefully keep us committed to each other and out of divorce court.

In Sickness and In Health - a #staymarried blog about the importance of sacrifice in marriage

So, in sickness or in health, are you willing to sacrifice for your partner? What will you do today to put their needs ahead of your own? How will you show them that you are there for them whether they are sweating out a fever or jogging down the waterfront? How can you put yourself second in a meaningful way to #staymarried?

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read For Better or Worse or 25 Things To Do Before the Wedding. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

For Better or Worse

I’ve mentioned before how much I love weddings. In February, we got to not only attend the wedding of a couple we love, but Tony was asked to officiate! He’d never done this before, and while he has no fear of speaking in front of a crowd of people, this was an entirely different level. He felt the weight of responsibility so heavily that he spent a very long time drafting and writing out just what he would say. Every last word of it was funny, and personal, and beautiful. As his wife, I couldn’t have been more proud.

When it came to the vows, he struggled with how to handle it. You see, George and Erika are not exactly traditional. I mean, I don’t know any other couple that’s had their engagement pictures feature an ax and a rooster.

For Better or Worse - a #staymarried blog for couples

Rather than a big formal rehearsal, we just had them over to our house for dinner to review the main parts of the ceremony and to have them practice and make edits to their vows. Tony pulled some of the most beautiful and traditional vows expecting them to make changes as they saw fit. He led them through the practice round and as they held hands, gazed at each other in our living room, and repeated Tony’s words, they beamed with love and admiration for each other. When they finished, Tony handed them a pen.

“Go for it. Change whatever you want. This is your wedding and this is just a draft. We want these vows to be yours.”

George and Erika looked at each other and Erika shrugged. “I don’t have anything.”
“Neither do I,” said George, “I think they’re perfect.”

They beamed some more and I don’t think either of them caught the surprised looks on my and Tony’s faces.

Just a few days later at one of the most wonderful weddings I’ve been to, they exchanged these vows that have been recited between husbands and wives over many, many generations. They meant them, and we pray they will keep them. There really is something so significant in the vows we make on our wedding day that none of us who have ever been married can yet understand on the day we make them.

For Better or Worse - a #staymarried blog for couples

I take you, my beloved, to have and to hold from this day forward.

For better or for worse. In sickness and in health.

To love and to cherish, all the days of my life.

 

For better.

When Erika is in a good mood. When she shines radiantly with love for him. When she is kind and funny just the way he likes her. When George is thoughtful and responsible. When he is simultaneously affectionate and sarcastic, just the way she likes him.

For worse.

When Erika is disrespectful and selfish. When she is tired and irritable. When she feels insecure and acts jealously. When George is thoughtless and rude. When he betrays her and disregards her feelings. When he is arrogant and prideful.

Of course, Tony didn’t go into so much detail during their ceremony. Still, this is the reality of the promise they made to each other that day. This, or some version of it, is the reality of the promise we all make when we marry. To take the whole person, not just the parts we like. To take them on their hardest days, not just their happiest. To believe in them when they do not believe in themselves. To honor them when they act dishonorably.

For Only as Long as I Feel Like It

In Karen Swallow Prior’s article in The Atlantic entitled “The Case for Getting Married Young,” she explores the phenomenon of our generation marrying later in life than the generations before us. She notes as research shows that, though the wisdom seems apparent for each of us individually to finish our education and fulfill our vocational dreams before we commit ourselves to another person, this wisdom has not made for lower divorce rates. In our culture, we have shifted from marrying one another out of social and economic advantages to marrying for companionship and emotional love. While I couldn’t imagine it any other way, the disadvantage seems that, if we marry from emotion, we may only stay married because of emotion as well. I love the way she puts it as she describes her own marriage of over three decades that: “It was not the days of ease that made our marriage stronger and happier: it was working through the difficult parts.”

For Better Or Worse - a #staymarried blog for couples

So, I go back to the traditional vows. I see nothing in the language that says “unless.” There is no caveat for our day-to-day emotions. There is no exception for the season when a wife holds down the fort and raises children alone while her husband is serving in the military elsewhere. There is no room for exit when either husband or wife loses their job, loses their motivation, gains weight, and starts smoking. For better or worse, we say.

We don’t say, “For better or worse, until you become really controlling about money.”
We don’t say, “For better or worse, unless you feel insecure when I go out alone with my friends.”
We don’t say, “For better or worse, as long as you continue to advance in your career.”
We don’t say, “For better or worse, until you weigh more than you do on our wedding day.”

For Better or Worse - a #staymarried blog for couples

For better or worse. We take each other not only as we stand on our wedding day, but through all of the changes that we will absolutely go through as we move through life together. We hope for better, we truly love through worse, and we #staymarried.

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read 25 Things To Do Before The Wedding. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

Photo Credit: Nostalgia Photgraphy